White Sox

White Sox spin Carrasco, Tribe right round

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White Sox spin Carrasco, Tribe right round

Saturday, April 2, 2011
Posted 2:54 p.m. Updated 4:59 p.m.

By Brett BallantiniCSNChicago.com

CLEVELAND It took the Chicago White Sox until the third inning of Fridays opener to score five runs. In Saturdays chaser, they led 5-0 after two.

This, in the infinite jest the Pale Hose have treated the 2011 season as so far, counts as progress.

Gordon Beckham had hits in both the first and second, plating two runs, featuring the second sacker's single off the right field wall, to set another apparent rout in motion.

But just like Fridays faux runaway, White Sox pitching and defense rallied against the rout. This time Edwin Jackson got a jump on his bullpen shufflin crew and gave three runs back in the second, one on a towering blast by Travis Hafner, two later with help from a curious double-error (bobble, throw) tacked to third baseman Brent Morel.

You can have some early struggles, but its always how you finish, said a confident Jackson. Both pitchers settled down. We went through the same things early in the game. As a manager, all you can ask a struggling pitcher is to regain stabilization of the game.

He put himself in trouble a lot, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. He couldnt really command how he wanted to throw the ball, but in the last couple of innings he settled down very well He gave it the best he had today.

Thats exactly what Jackson wanted to do, given his early scuffles.

The first couple of innings, I didnt really have too much, he said. I was catching too much of the plate and they took advantage of it. Its a battle, and you just keep fighting and keep your team in the game.

Meanwhile, tattered Cleveland Indians starter Carlos Carrasco settled down put a chill on the White Sox, with Bacons right-field wall single the last White Sox hit until Morel tapped out a single to right in the sixth. Morel then notched the first Chisox steal of the seasonwho had the rookie in the pool?and scoring on Juan Pierres subsequent single.

I like scoring the runs, but being on the other end, with guys in scoring position, my mind shifts to trying to drive guys in like that, Pierre said.

When Carlos Quentin drove in two runs (thats seven on the season, folks) with another deep double (his third) to right-center with two outs off of relief pitcher Chad Durbin, the lead was extended to 8-3 and led to speculation that the White Sox are only fit to maul pitchers relatively fresh from the pen.

Those runs kill teams, those add-on runs, Pierre said.

The biggest hit of the day was when Carlos hit that double late in the game, Guillen said. Good teams need to get big, two-out base hits. That was a big run.

The insurance runs also allowed Guillen to tap right into a potentially electrifying portion of his pen, the 1-2 young guns punch of Chris Sale and Sergio Santos, who came on to nail down the win for Jackson. The lefty-righty combo allowed just two hits and punched out four.

The White Sox have started 2-0 for the first time since 2005 and have now won six straight games at Progressive Field, dating to last year. A sweep looms.

Now we got to go for the white meat on the turkey now, Pierre said. Weve got em on their heels, so weve got to come out strong like we did these last two days.

Were happy right now, Jackson said, as Motley Crue blared from speakers and a video game tournament was about to tip off in the center of the room. You look around the clubhouse and its pretty loose and relaxed. Thats part of the gameyou win when you go out and have fun. Thats what were doing right now.

Morel dips into the stolen-base pool

Postgame, Morel was stunned to learn he was the owner of the first Chisox steal of the season, but in typical fashion, he played it off legit.

Any way we can score is great, he said. I was just trying to get on base with two outs. I got a good pitch to steal on. JPs been swinging the bat well, and came up clutch. A little insurance run definitely helps.

Last years major-league stolen base champion, Pierre, was cool with losing the early lead to the rookie.

I dont mind him stealing like that all the time, if he makes it, said the speedster. Its good for him, being a young guy, to have confidence to start playing the game the way we play it.

South Side Hit Men

The White Sox are hitting .363 as a team through two games, with an engorged .954 OPS. Not that anyone is complaining.

Its about having good at-bats, whether the results are there or not, Pierre said. People just want to have good at-bats throughout the lineup. This offense starts to wear on a pitcher. He looks at our lineup and says, Man, there arent too many holes in that lineup. So he has to make good pitches all day.

Guillen, thrilled by his clubs production, sees strength stretching 1-9.

Everybodys feeling good at the plate, even Alex Rios 0-for-8 on the season but seeing a sure first inning home run cut down by a powerful gust blowing in from left field, he said. The thing about baseball is, try to keep it as long as you can, stay on the same path, and make sure youre not changing anything.

Pierre agreed.

When you score runs, you just want to keep em coming, he said. We did a good job of that, Beckham getting that good knock, adding on, Q getting a big knock late, adding on.
A.J. Pierzynski visits the mound to talk with Edwin Jackson with the hurler in a jam during the second inning. Jackson struck out Shin-Soo Choo to get out of the frame and had seven strikeouts over his six innings of work. (AP)
Guillen knows the secret of why the White Sox have started out incendiary at the plate.

Nobodys trying to pull the balleverybodys staying the middle of the field and not trying to do too much, he said. This team is going to strike out a lot, but right now theyre not helping the pitchers by swinging at bad pitches. Theyre making them throw the ball over the plate.

Jax and SABR

The righty had no explanation for his mastery of the Indians at Progressive Field, where he improved to 4-0 with a 1.74 ERA in seven career starts.

I have no clue, he said. I never really keep up with stats.

Jackson is 8-1 lifetime vs. Cleveland, with a 2.70 ERA.

Tooth troubles

John Danks gets the start in the series finale on Sunday, but he wasnt at the ballpark for long on Saturday. After the national anthem, the lefty had to spend an hour in the dentists chair to have an old root canal reworked.

He went in there, cleaned it up a little, said Danks, typically upbeat and chill in spite of his tooth woes.

The oral emergency wont knock Danks out of his start tomorrow.

Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.com's White Sox Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox information.

Renteria believes Kopech is 'looking far more advanced than people might think'

Renteria believes Kopech is 'looking far more advanced than people might think'

On the first day that Dane Dunning threw live batting practice since having Tommy John surgery last March, leave it to Michael Kopech to steal his thunder.

Not to minimize the pivotal and symbolic breakthrough for Dunning, one of the White Sox top prospects, who is definitely someone to watch in 2020, but after Kopech completed his own live batting practice against White Sox hitters, the words coming from manager Rick Renteria about Kopech was the biggest pitching news of the day.

“Honestly, he’s looking far more advanced than most people might think,” Renteria said about Kopech, who is six months ahead of Dunning in his return from Tommy John.  “I think he’s commanding a lot better. Changeup, breaking ball, fastball, the misses are minimal. The ball is coming out of his hand loose and hot. Looks really good.”

Kopech agrees.

“Yeah. I’m a lot more comfortable already than I thought I would be. With all the work I put in last year and ending the season on a good note with a couple innings there, I felt like coming into spring was a little more relaxed for me, because I wasn’t having to get here and then prove that I can still pitch,” Kopech said. “I do feel like I’m in a good spot. I do feel like there’s some things that need to be worked on. I’m in a better spot than what I thought I would be.”

Kopech faced some menacing White Sox hitters. Among them Yoan Moncada and Yasmani Grandal. The new White Sox catcher, who is coming back from an injured calf injury, tested the calf by running out of the box to first base several times, showing no signs of problems.

With a flamethrower like Kopech, you might be wondering about his velocity. Ask Kopech, and he’s not thinking about it at all. At least, not yet.

“To be honest, I don’t want to know until I’m in a game. There’s no point in me finding out how hard I’m throwing right now.  It would just be something I’m conscious about that I don’t need to be conscious about.”

He’ll throw another batting practice session in five days and says that his first Cactus League appearance could come after that.

“I think I’m getting close.  Breaking balls are something I’ll need to fine tune a little bit.  I need to be a little quicker with them,” Kopech said. “I feel very comfortable.  I’m pretty relaxed. I don’t feel like I’m getting too far ahead of myself, but I haven’t been in a game situation yet so I can’t really speak to that very well.”

As for Dunning, taking the mound against live hitters for the first time in more than a year, he was thrown straight into the fire. Moncada was the first batter he faced.

“I was a little nervous because it was my first time facing hitters. I was a little amped,” Dunning said about pitching to Moncada. “If one runs away from me, I think that would have been really bad for my career. Luckily enough I was able to actually throw some strikes. It was fun.”

Dunning was able to locate his fastball. “I was getting after it. It was a controlled hard,” he said. He got a feel for his changeup and spun some breaking balls as well.

Considering the long sludge that is Tommy John recovery, how big of a step was this for Dunning?

“I feel like it’s that hump I just got over, facing live hitters again. Getting back in action again, it’s exciting for me because I know that games are coming soon.”

 

James McCann can still play 'a pivotal role' for White Sox

James McCann can still play 'a pivotal role' for White Sox

James McCann went from backup to All Star and back again.

The White Sox upgraded at catcher this winter, adding Yasmani Grandal on a team-record contract. Make no mistake, Grandal’s signing is an inarguably good thing for the South Siders. He’s got a track record of success both at and behind the plate, with the winning experience necessary to help this team get to where it wants to be.

But it might not have been the best thing for McCann, individually, after he earned the starting job with what he accomplished in 2019, going from a career backup to a spot on the AL All-Star team.

Any frustration at returning to the No. 2 spot on the depth chart is more than understandable.

“There’s things about the business that you can’t control,” McCann said on the day pitchers and catchers reported to Camelback Ranch. “All you can control is how you handle your own self and how you handle your own preparations, and that was my main focus throughout the offseason and that will continue to be my main focus: how to make myself better and how to help the team win.”

Of course, even with Grandal slated to get the majority of the playing time behind the plate, McCann is still expected to play a valuable role on this White Sox team, one looking to play October baseball for the first time in more than a decade.

After all, two All-Star catchers are better than one, right?

“A hallmark of a good team is having quality depth,” general manager Rick Hahn said. “That's something we talked about from the start of being one of the goals that we set out to accomplish through this rebuild, and quite frankly, it was one of the things I've talked about publicly perhaps of not being entirely there yet in terms of organizational depth at certain spots. Catcher isn't one of those spots.

“We've got two All-Star caliber catchers, both of whom we anticipate contributing to a good club this summer.”

Independent of how often he’ll find his way into the lineup, whether McCann can produce at the same level that earned him an All-Star nod is very much an uncertainty. After slashing .316/.371/.502 in the first half last season, he struggled mightily after the All-Star break, hitting just .226/.281/.413. Those second-half numbers were far more in line with the numbers he put during his five years with the Detroit Tigers than what he did in his first few months with the White Sox.

That uncertainty is no longer a season-defining issue now that Grandal sits atop the catching depth chart, but McCann can obviously still have a positive effect on this team. In addition to simply providing depth, he showed last season a great ability to work with White Sox pitchers, particularly Lucas Giolito, and earned rave reviews from his teammates for his work ethic and dedication to game-planning.

“A pivotal role,” manager Rick Renteria said of how important a part McCann would play for the White Sox in 2020. “We have two catchers that are two All Stars, potentially.

“He’s an integral part of who we are as we move forward. … You can't run a catcher out there every single day. You can't expect one guy's going to catch 162 games. It's not gonna happen. I ran Mac out there trying to catch almost 162 games, and you start to break down a little bit.

“Having two guys who you can truthfully trust and being able to manage the pitching is a huge benefit to us, and we're happy that we have these two guys to balance us out.”

White Sox pitchers like Dallas Keuchel have touted the catching tandem as being an ultimate luxury. And for what it’s worth, both catchers said that having the two of them on the roster is a positive.

“James has been great,” Grandal said. “Obviously, I’ve needed him here just to go through a few things. For the most part, we’ve just been talking catching and how we can get in that aspect. … For me, it’s going to be how can I get in his head in order to kind of see it the same way and then we can talk about it and go from there.”

“It’s a good group,” McCann said. “Obviously Yaz strengthens that. I’m going to take stuff from him, as I’m sure he’ll be able to take some stuff from me. That’s what makes a team good, when guys can grow from each other and push each other.”

Who knows what will end up happening with McCann. The White Sox would figure to be better with him than without him, someone who does reliable work behind the plate and is capable of All-Star production with the bat, even if there’s no certainty those numbers will return in 2020.

But McCann is also slated to hit free agency at season’s end, and perhaps some team comes calling, putting the White Sox in a position to deal from a position of strength. After all, Zack Collins is still a part of this organization and its catching depth, a first-round pick who flourished offensively at Triple-A last season.

But for any understandable frustration that might be lingering, McCann spoke with the same type of confidence about the 2020 White Sox as everyone else during the early days of camp.

Heck, he might have come off more confident than anyone.

“If I said we weren’t trying to win a World Series, then I’d be lying,” he said. “It’s win now, and it’s not just get to the playoffs, it’s win a World Series.”

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